ERIN DONOVAN

No matter what, keep on trucking

Posted April 20, 2014, at 1:14 p.m.
Erin Donovan
Erin Donovan

I’ve had a lot of weird jobs in my lifetime. I have worked on boat docks, serving up burgers and gassing boats on the Lake of the Ozarks. I spent a summer making gourmet sandwiches and delivering them to offices. I drove new cars from the dealer to the carwash and back. I used to film the basketball games for the coaching staff while in college. I sold concessions at spring training games in Arizona. I was a nanny for the children of a famous Fox anchor. I even worked at a swim school where Secret Service used to line the pool because the vice president’s grandchildren were among the swimmers. And I’m a mother of three toddlers so don’t even get me started on the job description that accompanies that gig.

The strangest of all my jobs, though, was an ad hoc position. The committee — of one — was formed after we sold our place in New York within moments of listing it. I moved with my then husband, our two dogs, and our two babies into a La Quinta hotel, which is Spanish for “The Holiday Inn was full,” until we could figure out what to do next. While staying in that hotel, I received two distressing phone calls. The first was from my physician. I was pregnant again. The second call was from the lobby. We could no longer keep the big dog in the hotel, for she was barking too much and disturbing the other guests, who evidently didn’t like to be startled at midnight when they were wheeling coolers filled with 30 packs through the hallway.

As I sat on the bed, rubbing my temples, time stood still to the throbbing in my head. As far as I could see it, I had six more months to figure out how to deal with the first phone call. I had only 24 hours to bring closure to the second one. The only solution I could conceive of, while holed up in that hotel room, was to bring the dog to my inlaws who lived in the very far away state of Maine. This meant driving northward for eight hours in a truck with failing brakes with a dog who paces and barks at every object to pass by the window.

To add insult to injury, we decided if I was going to make this trek, we should save ourselves the expense of a storage unit and transport some of the odds and ends from our now closed home along with the dog. I immediately regretted our frugality upon setting eyes on the packed truck the morning I was to embark on my voyage. My jaw fell open as I stared at the back of the truck, which was packed to the heavens. It was piled so high that my ex had actually constructed wooden rails to add to the sides to allow for even more stockpiling. It was covered over with a blue tarp that was duct taped to the wooden rails.

Not long into the trip, the wheels started coming off the bus. Literally speaking, the tarp began coming off the back. I knew something was wrong when I could see the mouths of the drivers behind me form swear words before wildly swerving out of my lane. I steered into the shoulder so that I could better inspect the tarp which had become more like a parachute catching wind down the interstate.

From behind the truck, the sides of my body shuddering with the velocity of cars hurtling by, I still couldn’t see the full extent of the problem. I had to climb to the top of our pile of junk. Once I had arrived at the peak, much like ascending a full Dumpster, I appraised the situation like a pilot in a failing plane who needed to cut weight. A rake, some board games, and a crib mattress went sailing into the grassy highway bumper. A bellicose match with bungee cords ensued. I also devised some unorthodox uses for all those square-shaped holes that line the bed of trucks. Exhausted — from the drive, the effort, and the pregnancy — I sat atop that scrap pile in the bed to catch my breath. I reached my arm through the rear window to grab my water bottle. The dog snapped at my hand as it grazed her side. There I sat, bareback and pregnant, on a stretch of asphalt somewhere in Connecticut, waving people by who believed me to be having some kind of true emergency.

Six hours later, I managed to deposit a rickety truck filled with the remnants of my life and a dog who needs regular doses of Ritalin to Maine.

I considered, from the seat of a bus headed back to New York City, whether I’d found a new career in the trucking business. After all, I’d learned that I can drive a truck that only two other people in the Northern Hemisphere know how to drive. Forget big rigs. Try a Ford F-150 with no brakes and an interior so ugly that it actually blinds most people upon sight. I confirmed that I can drive for hours without needing to stop to use a bathroom thanks to an intense fear of gas station toilets and the people who use them.

I stared out the window, the towers of Manhattan poking the horizon, and eased into my seat. The 18-wheelers stacked up in the truck lane beside me. I caught the eye of a trucker hunched over the wheel. He smiled and flicked the bill of his hat. I curled my lips and nodded my head in return. That’s what we truckers do. We keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.

10-4.

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